PVC Submersible ROV

[mark.brubaker.1] and his crew decided to make a submersible for a school project using PVC pipes as a frame. It has two motors on the back to provide forward thrust and steering as well as a horizontal mounted motor in the middle of the PVC chassis to provide up and down thrust. They used regular motors which they waterproofed by inserting them inside a case full of plumbers wax. We’re not sure how long this will hold at the bottom of the ocean, but it works fine for a school project in the pool. Here’s the instructions on how to make one.

The build is completely analog, the controller is a board with three switches which individually control the different motors. So if you want to turn left, you fired up the right motor. For right you do the opposite and fire up the left motor. Up and down, well, you get the picture. If you have a swimming pool, lake or some water body nearby and you’re looking for a weekend project with your kids, this is a great tip. It’s not an Arduino controlled robot fish, but it’s a first step in that direction; you can later on use the frame to improve on the design and add some electronics.

They made a video so you can watch it go:

18 thoughts on “PVC Submersible ROV

  1. This design is not new (including thruster sealing), it comes from a book about 20 years old called “build your own underwater robot”. As a professional ROV designer, I’ll add that go pros sint go very deep: we’ve helped customers put them in proper underwater housings.

    1. If you can swing it, a magnetic coupler is pretty good for thruster sealing. At the same time, if the motor will work under pressure (ie the problem is water, not pressure) you can fill the motor housing with low viscosity oil and then pressure compensate the housing (have a flexible rubber blister over a hole in the housing so that the oil in the housing will be at the same pressure as the surrounding water). Then only a low pressure or in seal in the output shafts will do.

      As for frame materials, pvc pipe is easy to work with and cheap to get, but I’d prefer side panels rather than a frame made of somewhat flexible tubing.

  2. How about using computer cooling fans for ROV propulsion? Would want to put some water resistant lube on the bearings and seal the electronics with a coating of lacquer. The 4 wire PWM controllable ones would likely be the best.

    Fabricate some nose and tail cones to glue onto the motor and blade hubs for streamlining. Also cut away any of the mounting holes not being used to attach the fan to the ROV.

  3. MATE competition runs similar construction on ROVs. MATE is like FIRST for submersible robots. Funny enough, MATE came before FIRST. ;)
    Any ay, a common motor these days is beusless DC from the RC plane, drone world. Essentially magnetic coupling, with no exposed electrical. The winding wire is all insulated. But you have to deal with grime in the open frame motor and rust.

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